Local Schools

Hog and Grog event shows off uniqueness of Our Lady of Unity School

Hispanic dancers entertain the crowd at Our Lady of Unity School’s fourth annual Hog and Grog for Scholarships fundraiser. The event raised more than $110,000 for OLU students, the vast majority of whom receive scholarships to attend the school in Kansas City, Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — One glimpse inside Our Lady of Unity School here is all it takes.

“That’s the one thing everybody has always said: If you get in our doors, you’ll fall in love with us,” said principal Cally Dahlstrom.

A group of supporters had the opportunity to experience that love during the school’s annual Hog and Grog for Scholarships fundraiser, held on Oct. 7.

The evening began with Mass at Sacred Heart Church, which is connected to Our Lady of Unity (OLU).

Participants then had the opportunity to tour the school before enjoying dinner, drinks and entertainment.

This was the fourth Hog and Grog — the third in-person — and the first time the entire event was held on the parish grounds.

The event raised over $110,000 for OLU students and their families, the vast majority of whom receive scholarships to attend the school.

“It’s crucial to get this funding so we can get more students into OLU and help them be successful,” said Rob Cowdrey, president of OLU’s business team.

“We know sometimes financial struggles can get in the way,” he continued, “and we don’t want that to be a reason that we don’t have students coming to OLU for Catholic education.”

Participants in this year’s Hog and Grog fundraiser had the opportunity to tour Our Lady of Unity School. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Business team members, made up of volunteers from various parishes, lend their talents to the school’s marketing and fundraising efforts.

“We try to help Cally out where we can, where she needs help [and] where the school needs help by providing some guidance,” said Cowdrey.

Since the team was created, OLU has experienced increased enrollment, upgrades to infrastructure and more.

“It really is Cally doing a phenomenal job leading the school,” said Cowdrey. “But it’s great to see how we can help assist her to be more successful.”

Our Lady of Unity School principal Cally Dahlstrom addresses the crowd at the school’s annual Hog and Grog for Scholarships fundraiser, held on Oct. 7. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Dahlstrom is grateful for the work her business team has accomplished to spread the word about the exciting things happening at OLU.

“It’s really easy to refer to us as a poor school in Wyandotte County,” she said. “Financially, we might struggle with dollars, but we are very rich in culture and family traditions.

“We are excited to share some of our traditions at Hog and Grog this year with our sponsors and guests.

“Plus, we have a twist with having a large percentage of Hispanic and Latino families, [so] we are able to share traditions that many other schools may not celebrate.”

Deacon Mark Stukel of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Leawood, looks at student art during a tour of the school on Oct. 7. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Participants experienced a taste of that culture during Hog and Grog.

Alejandra Arevalo, who’s been part of the school’s kitchen staff for around three years, cooked tacos for the event.

“We offer quality food with Hispanic flavors more traditional to real Mexican food,” she said. “This is a traditional recipe that our parents taught us when we were young.”

For Arevalo, sharing her Hispanic culture and the OLU “family” with the wider community was exciting.

“It always has been a special place where we all feel like a big family and we all feel welcomed,” she said.

One of the highlights of Hog and Grog is the traditional foods, including these homemade salsas provided by school families. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Arevalo is thankful for those who have supported Hog and Grog over the years. Without it, she would not have been able to send her three children to OLU.

“Some of us don’t have family members here around us,” she said. “Being in this Catholic event, we feel that [people] support us because they care about us.”

One of those supporters is Ann Ekis, chairperson for the Companions in Faith committee at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, OLU’s sister parish.

She also serves as chairperson of OLU’s development and fundraising committee, which assists Dahlstrom in the areas of fundraising, grants and development.

Ekis hoped Hog and Grog would benefit the school and its supporters.

“Hog and Grog is a celebration for our partners who have either made a financial gift for scholarships or have helped the school by providing in-kind goods or services that we need,” she said.

Volunteering in the school’s library has given Ekis insight into the power of Catholic education.

“I have seen the growth of these students both in academics and maturity,” she said, “and it will be very rewarding when this event can provide scholarships for those families that need one.

“I am also excited to have more people see and feel what a wonderful place this is in Kansas City, Kansas.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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